Erewash Canal Preservation and Development Association ... looking after the Erewash Canal since 1968
Erewash is the only constituency that is named after a river and a canal, so it is quite appropriate that I speak in this debate. I mentioned that in my maiden speech, so it is great to be able to expand on what I started a number of years ago.
I want to highlight the amazing work of two organisations in my constituency: the Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association—that is quite a mouthful, and is usually shortened to ECP&DA—and the Canal & River Trust, which we have already heard a lot about. Without the ECP&DA, a voluntary organisation, the Erewash canal would not exist today. Back in 1968, the British Waterways board was about to close the canal, but the ECP&DA was formed. It probably never anticipated that, over 50 years later, it would be awarded the Queen’s award for voluntary service, in recognition of the important role that it has played in our community.
The volunteers have restored and maintained the Sandiacre lock cottages and toll house, which now open as a museum on Sundays. Towards Christmas, they have mince pies and various festive activities, which is always good to see. The association has also ensured that navigation along the full length of the canal, from Trent lock to the great northern basin in Langley Mill, is possible. The association also continually patrols the canal and extracts a variety of waste items, which I am sure are found in many other canals, from the bottom.
The association celebrated its 50th anniversary with an amazing boat rally, and next year it will celebrate its 55th anniversary in the same way. The association has many benefits, both for the individuals involved and for Erewash. I take the opportunity to thank the ECP&DA; Erewash would not be the same without it—we would have only a river and not a canal.
Just a few weeks ago, the ECP&DA highlighted the many weeds in the canal, which the association was concerned would impact boats going to the rally next May. That is where collaboration with the Canal & River Trust came in, which shows the real benefits of organisations working together. Understanding the importance of easy navigation along the canal for boats visiting the rally, the Canal & River Trust will clear the weeds from what I call the bottom half of the canal, and the ECP&DA will clear the section nearer its base. I look forward to many visiting boats, and people enjoying the pleasures of the Erewash canal, including the newly restored Bennerley viaduct, next May. Whenever anybody from outside the area comes to the Erewash canal, they are amazed by its beauty and tranquillity.
I now turn to the Canal & River Trust in more detail. I met its director for the east midlands a couple of weeks ago to talk about the canal. That included the role that it will play in walking and cycling projects and the waterfront project in the Long Eaton town fund deal, which is part of the levelling-up project, and the trust’s work to repair the locks at Gallows Inn in January. I look forward to seeing those locks from inside, without the water. In the past, my office team and I have volunteered for a day with the trust—the stretch of fencing at Trent lock is badly painted, but we definitely had fun that day.
That is what waterways provide: fun and recreation. They provide an opportunity for exercise and benefit our health and wellbeing. The work of the Canal & River Trust is invaluable. It is the guardian of our waterways, whether the River Erewash, the Erewash canal or the other 2,000 miles of our water network. It provides employment, recreation and volunteering opportunities. It is a protector of our natural environment and history.
As we have heard, DEFRA is reviewing its long-term grant funding. That is why this debate is so timely: the Minister can hear at first hand about the great and invaluable work carried out by the Canal & River Trust. The Erewash canal is accessible because of the determination of the Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association, and the Canal & River Trust now plays its part in maintaining it. If our waterways are not invested in through the Canal & River Trust, I fear that too many of them will be lost, in the same way that we nearly lost the Erewash canal.
With the benefits attributed to the Canal & River Trust estimated at over £4 billion each year, we cannot afford not to continue funding it. The Government’s investment in the trust is leveraged many times over, as we heard from my hon. Friend Michael Fabricant. The current grant of £50 million per year is money well spent. My plea to the Minister is to give the Canal & River Trust certainty and to renew the agreement without delay.